Questions from a High School Senior

Hi, I’m a senior in high school and I’ve chosen to become an English major in college. I’m concerned, though, about what I’ll do with an English major.

My questions are:

1. Are you a full time author or do you do other work besides writing for financial support?

I am a full-time writer, but being a successful full-time writer is definitely a challenge. It takes a long time to receive royalties, anything up to a year after publication because at first you must pay back your advance, and you must sell in large quantities and produce publishable books regularly, to earn enough to support yourself. I recommend that at least for the first few years you have a second line of income, a second job that pays enough to support  your living costs.

2. How long did it take you to write your first book?

My first book was Old Magic. It took me a year from the start of researching until I had packed it off to my agent.

3. Would it be a good idea (for a writer) to work at a publications house in order to have a better opportunity at getting your work published?

It would not hurt to be working in a business where you will learn all about the publishing industry and what it takes to produce a book, and know first-hand what editors are looking for, but whether it will give you an advantage to getting your work published I can’t say. If your writing is of a high publishable standard, and your story is amazing, and your voice is original, you should be able to find a publisher.

4. Is it better to self-publish?

Going by my own experiences, I would have to say no. The work that goes into your manuscript by the editors, copy editors and proof readers is of a very high standard in a publishing house. They are a whole team of professionals who take your manuscript and look at it with their trained eyes and make it brilliant. The publishing house then creates the finished product, using a design team for the cover, produces thousands of them, then promotes your novel through the media or online social media sites, and distributes it into stores.

But having said this, I hold self-published authors in high regard. They work hard at promoting their books and liaising with their own editors and proof readers. Those that I have read have all been of a very high standard.

5. Should one find a literary agent first before trying to get something published or will that just come naturally later?

I would try to place my manuscript with a literary agent first. These are professionals in the industry and have the ability to put your book directly on an editor’s desk, then liaise with the publisher for the best deal for you.

6. Would it be better to double major in English and something that will be of better financial support?

I can’t advise you on what subjects to take. Your guidance counsellor would be more able to do this on a one to one level. But it is wise to remember, as I mentioned in an earlier question, someone who is just starting out will need to be able to support themselves in those early years.

7. And lastly, what’s a job (if you know) that a writer could get right out of college with an English major?

Sorry, I can’t help you with this question. I would again recommend a guidance counsellor, but you can also research online job-seeking websites that specify necessary education qualifications. I’m sorry for all the questions! Hopefully, it’s not too much trouble. Thanks for your time!

It’s been a pleasure, and I have posted your questions on my website’s blog for the benefit of any others who might be seeking to become a full-time writer like yourself. Good luck, Marshanah, with your future career.

Marshanah T.

Old Magic - The USA Edition

Old Magic – The USA Edition

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